Blind Cord Safety Regulations 2014 – the Impact

Several times a year tragic news hits the press, reminding us of the perils of blind cords and chains. In our last blog on blind cord safety we ran through the issues and set out a few practical steps to make your blinds safer for children.

The industry has for some time been rife with speculation as to the contents of the new regulations being drawn up by the BBSA to make blinds safer, but with these regulations shrouded in a veil of secrecy pretty much right up to publication (28th February 2014 – from which date the regulations are immediately effective), we the suppliers have had precious little time to prepare.

The aim of the new measures is undeniably laudable – arguably essential, but I think it’s fair to say few of us could have anticipated the scope and effect of the new regulations.

So what does BS EN 13120 Require us to do?

The regulations bite on any internal blinds installed in premises where children aged 0 to 42 months are likely to have access/ be present – and also where the destination of the blind is unknown. Consequently premises where children will not have access are exempt – but notices to this effect must be evident at such premises.

So, the new regulations came into effect on 28th February this year, and although a period of grace is generally considered acceptable, to be safe we should all be supplying and fitting compliant devices pretty much straight away.

Whilst much attention has focussed on how the new regulations affect roman blinds, “internal blinds” is wide enough to cover any window covering – thereby including swedish blinds, venetian blinds, vertical blinds, roller blinds, austrian/festoon blinds, panel blinds – basically any blind that has corded or chained loops that could fit over the head/around the neck of a young child thereby creating a strangulation hazard.

So how do we make corded blinds and tracks compliant?

Quite simply, all hazardous cords, chains and loops must be removed or made safe.

Operating Chains & Cords

Whatever the height at which the blind is fixed, the chain must be no less than 150cms off the floor AND secured with a complaint safety device. Without this device the blind is not compliant, even if the chain is 150cms or more off the floor.

blind chain safety box and labels
A typical blind chain safety device together with product safety information – supplied with Evans blind mechanisms

Exceptions: if the chain or cord has a breakaway device then the bottom loop can be 60cms off the floor and the safety device pictured above is not required.

It’s curtains for kitchen blinds! clearly chains attached to blinds above kitchen work tops/sinks will never be 150cms off the top of the kitchen unit, and no allowance is made in the regulations exempting such blinds if they have breakaway devices fitted. So if you want a window treatment above your kitchen sink, curtains are pretty much your only option!

Low level blinds: if the installation height of the blind is less than or around 150cms off the floor, then an operating chain with a maximum loop of 20cms can be used as this is deemed not to be a choking hazard.

Accessible Inner Cords

Here, we’re talking about the pull cords at the rear of a roman blind that raise and lower the blind – and this is where the new regulations get really “interesting” for blind suppliers.

blind cord stoppers
Examples of breakaway devices – note the breakaway devices pictured above are Evans products and are only compliant when used in conjunction with an Evans roman blind system

You can ignore the new regulations as regards to inner blind cords IF the maximum distance between two consecutive retention/attachment points (ie typically the rings on the rod pockets at the back of the blind that the blind cord passes through) is less than or equal to 20cms.

However for retention points greater than 20cms apart – ie most products on the market – a compliant breakaway device (for examples see image above) must be used on each and every cord at the point (ie the ring) where that cord attaches to the bottom rod pocket of the blind.

Crucially these breakaway devices have been designed so that the main cord is released when a load of 6kg or more is applied to them. Strict instructions govern how each device can be fitted – for example the cords running through the devices pictured above cannot be knotted as this will prevent the main cord from being released when pressure is applied to it.

So what are the practical implications of the new regulations?

As a supplier we have a few grounds for concern. The safety devices for operating chains and cords are fine because we’ve been recommending these to all our customers for some time now – particularly where they’re being installed in rooms where small children have access. They’re unanimously well received in these circumstances as parents appreciate the peace of mind that such devices bring.

However the older generation with no children or grand children to worry about are going to be less sympathetic when we insist on installing these devices – particularly where the safety device makes it difficult to reach and control the blind.

At the moment we’re reliant largely on the information emanating from our suppliers who are themselves interpreting the new regulations as they affect their products. There are areas of ambiguity that need clarifying – such as the stipulation from some manufacturers that it is our responsibility as suppliers to the end consumer to label each blind or other product with our company details for traceability once the fabric is added.

The European directive which made all these changes mandatory makes no mention of this, and if you want to check BS EN 13120 yourself you have to buy it for the princely sum of £190. At a time when clarity is needed we question why the government should be profiting from us all in this way….

So assuming suppliers have to brand all their products going forward so that a product can be traced in the regrettable event that harm is caused to a child, this places a huge evidential burden on suppliers such as ourselves. A chain safety device can be easily removed by the consumer post-installation – so we’re going to have to document every single blind product caught by these regulations going forward – to prove that when we left the premises each product was fully compliant.

Which brings us onto our final point – concerning the inner cord safety devices. A number of cord stopper devices were available on the market before these regulations came into effect – but typically over time the cords slip in the stopper causing the blind to slip from a horizontal position leaving the blind hanging askew. To prevent this happening we have in the past typically knot the cord straight onto the ring without a stopper, or knot the cord around the end of the cord stopper to prevent it slipping. You cannot now do this, and only time will tell whether the new devices will keep the blind in its desired position. If not, we suppliers brace ourselves collectively for the phone calls from dissatisfied customers requiring call outs to remedy the problem.

Time will also tell whether the 6kg release points on these inner cord safety devices will spell the end of sumptuous lined and interlined roman blinds over a certain size – which may be too heavy for the safety devices to raise and lower without releasing.